SGO for nephew - can SS and the LA be trusted??

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Joined: Sat Jan 04, 2014 1:40 pm

SGO for nephew - can SS and the LA be trusted??

Post by Bo_C » Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:54 pm

Good evening

This website is fantastic by the way. Thank you so much to whoever bothered to take the time to set up and maintain this whole encylopedia & help facility to help people like us! I am horrified to find just how poorly treated we are as potential SG's and I would thoroughly agree that the whole system seems so incredibly unfair and seems to protect and divert all the support and funding towards the people that least deserve it whilst those of us trying to help out seem to have to go through hell! The logic of the welfare state in this country never ceases to disappoint me to the point where I would really rather be elsewhere ('elsewhere' being an entirely fairytale place!). The whole Child Support Agency system is a fiasco too... but I digress!

We have passed assessments for my partner's very young nephew and are going through the court process as his mother is fighting her case. We don't trust the LA team at all now. We were completely taken in by kind words and agreed to offer ourselves up as a Plan B if the Court finds that Plan A (mum) is not feasible. For some reason we initially understood that we were just a back up plan and unlikely to be needed but information filtered through SS since on one hand makes us think we are 90% likely to take over care and then we return to limbo because we have to remember that what we are being told may be a pack of lies and is only one side of the case. Social Services don't really seem to have anyone's interests at heart but their own. I am afraid I have to date thought that SS (or whatever they are called now) were there to actually help but hec, to my dismay, I can see they are just covering their backs and just as overworked and (in)competent as the rest of us who struggle to cope with too much work. AND they seem to have some sort of incentive to withhold funding. Is that true?? Or have we been blessed with a SW who thinks that we don't deserve a thing because we are educated and earn money? We have asked twice for the OK for legal advice and for funding for it. My email was ignored and the verbal conversation with my partner was along the lines of 'do whatever you feel you need to do'. They are clearly not offering to cover the fees and I don't understand why when they have been so enthusiastic about our involvement. Did the SW come to our house and decide we were a winner because we are not only decent people but they could also save a heap of their budget? Does it actually come down to that sort of thing? Why aren't they answering us properly? Why is nothing done properly? Information is sporadic. Commitments are never met and the main Social Worker just seems too disorganised or too overworked to follow through anything that is said or if it is followed through, everything takes ages. We don't want to start making enemies here - what should we do?? In addition, the SWorker is keen to close the case immediately after the hearing (I have read somewhere that a lady managed to insist that the case be left open indefinitely which seems more sensible, or perhaps it does not?) and was also saying that the child would cease to be a looked after child once the verdict was made. We are now deeply suspicious of anything that is said and we just don't know what is best at all.

We have this week been advised of our financial package. We have been offered a single payment of a grand to take on this tiny baby until age 18. They have assessed us on our lifestyle but ignored the fact we can't maintain any of it if we take over his care! We work long long hours to earn our wages and we commute a long way and share a car journey both ways as we can't afford train fares. Our house is a shattered old thing that is a money pit as it is a work in progress. We work hard to live this way (and yes, I am really wondering why now i have written it all down!!). Daycare will completely screw up our daily routine and our finances to the point where were have realised that we can't actually afford to take on this child at all if they don't offer us anything more than the initial payment which itself is ridiculous. We can't survive on one salary and the costs of day care and the salary dip and/or the cost of commuting will mean that one of our wages will be wiped out. I have worked out that a partial salary loss, nursery costs and settling in costs in the first month will come to three times what they have offered us. After he is settled, returning to work will incur transport costs at £300+ a month which I don't currently incur. And the daycare itself will cost £1k a month. How can they justify offering us nothing by way of maintenance? I made a point of asking out right at the family conference if we would be penalised for being a working couple with no children living with us. They said we wouldn't be but we blatantly are!! We were told we wouldn't have to change our lives significantly, we weren't expected to give up work and care full time, that we should be able to function with some adjustment. We gave a full breakdown of our finances as part of the assessment process c/o the independent social worker, but the actual SW team asked specifically about just our Water bill. Surely SS have to allow us to work?? We can't just take on an unsettled child and throw him into 12 hour, 5 day a week daycare from a tiny age. And even if we did do that, we are expected to pay for the full time care and all costs associated with changing our routine and feeding, clothing etc. If they don't offer any more support we will have to consider moving house or have to say that we can't take him. Surely that is a horrific situation?? Do they not at least have some sort of duty of care to assess the finances and decide that we aren't suitable as the figures just can't add up? Do they not have an interest to give us the maximum they can to make this Plan B work?? They have a tight deadline to meet.... If we back out they won't meet it at all which is not good for the little boy at all. It all just seems so wrong.

I have seen some references to legal precedents and we were also told by the independent social worker that we should be given no less financial support than a foster carer, but we are being offered peanuts and I could potentially lose my job whilst we hang about as the uncertainty about my attendance at work and my working hours after the Hearing within the next 2 months means they haven't been able to give me new work. I am leaving myself in a very dangerous position and just feel completely let down and frustrated by the system. We get no support, no advice, nothing... We are trying to be kind here yet we are being entirely pooped upon! I can't help but feel vulnerable and at risk - I am a hardworking honest and educated person yet have never felt so stupid, misinformed, naive and gullible! Why are they so keen to push a tiny baby upon us and offer us nothing in terms of legal fees, nothing in terms of financial support and then wash their hands of the whole matter ASAP? What is the incentive NOT to look after the people they have supported/invited to be assessed? Can anyone explain this? We thought we got on well with this SW. We know the mum and the SW do not see eye to eye at all which further skews our trust in what we are told. I am so confused. What would you recommend we do?? Any help at ALL would be very much appreciated.

Sincere apologies for the epic saga and many thanks in advance.

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David Roth
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Joined: Thu Aug 10, 2006 10:14 am

Re: SGO for nephew - can SS and the LA be trusted??

Post by David Roth » Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:59 pm

Hi Bo_C, and welcome to the family and friends carers' discussion forum.

It sounds as though one of your major problems is feeling that you are not getting full information. Have you considered becoming joined as a party to the proceedings? You don't need to have legal representation to become a party - if you call up the clerk of the court, they should take you through how it would work. Since it looks as though the child will be getting placed with you, then you can say that you do have a legitimate interest in the outcome of the case. As a party to the case, you will be given the court bundle of papers, i.e. the same information as everyone else who is a party to the case, and you will have the right to be in court during the proceedings. You don't need to inform the local authority you are applying to be a party, it is the court's decision, and while the local authority may or may not be happy about you applying, they can't stop you from applying. Without legal representation, you would be there as a litigant in person - our Advice Sheet 19, on making your own SGO application, gives you some advice about this:

If the child you will be raising is currently looked after, then you are entitled to have an assessment of your need for financial support - I'm not clear whether this has actually been carried out already, but if not it is really important to make a written request for this assessment. Part of the standard SGO assessment should included an assessment of your need for financial and other types of support. If you become a party, you would be able to point out in court if this assessment has not been carried out, or if you think it has been carried out unfairly, for example if they are not taking into account that your income is going to be reduced once the child is placed with you. If you would be at a financial disadvantage, then the courts can sometimes apply pressure to the local authority to provide a support package - but if this isn't agreed before the order is made, it is highly unlikely that it will be agreed afterwards, so you need to make your case before any order is granted.

You mentioned that you had heard about a legal precedent for payment of the SGO allowance. This might have been the Lewisham judgment, the legal reference for which is B V London Borough of Lewisham [2008] EWHC 738 (Admin). This was a case that stated that the starting point for any calculation about the amount of SGO allowance a special guardian was paid should be what they would receive if they were fostering the child. This amount would be subject to a means test, so your income would be taken into account if you were working, and child benefit and child tax credits would be deducted from the amount paid as well (unless you were on Income Support).

If you want to discuss this with an adviser, please feel free to call our advice line - it is a freephone number, 0808 801 0366, lines are open Mon-Fri 9.30am-3pm.
David Roth
FRG Policy Adviser

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